Edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 5/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Vintage Furniture: Collecting and Living With Modern Design Classics
by Fay Sweet
Easthampton, Massachusetts: Antique Collectors Club, $45
224 pages, 307 illustrations (281 color)
Delighting us with a large variety of images of chairs, tables, sofas, and the like, this book disappoints by failing to define a point of view or organize material clearly. The story of modern as well as contemporary furniture is told more or less chronologically—however in brief episodes rather than a continuous narrative. These episodes are interleaved with profiles of 20 designers, some of the usual icons along with welcome lesser-knowns. Alvar Aalto is given four pages, as are the young French brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. Marcel Breuer gets two pages, and so does Dutch designer Ineke Hans. Among those missing are Ward Bennett, Niels Diffrient, Joe D'Urso, Paul McCobb, Harvey Probber, Lella and Massimo Vignelli, Edward Wormley, and Nicos Zographos. A caption mentions Alexander Girard, but no design of his made the cut.
The rather confusing parade of pictures and squibs is made even more difficult to follow by an overabundance of typefaces. And a few editing errors have slipped in: On the very last page, a caption that refers to Le Corbusier's 1928 chaise longue actually accompanies a large photograph of an overstuffed Scandinavian armchair holding a pussycat.
I will want to keep a copy of this book on my own library shelves because of its wealth of images, many of which I'd never seen before. But I don't think it's destined for my coffee table.
How to Read Buildings: A Crash Course in Architectural Styles
by Carol Davidson Cragoe
New York: Rizzoli International Publications, $18
256 pages, 575 illustrations
You probably don't need a crash course in architectural styles, but questions of period and nomenclature sometimes crop up for even the most informed of us. This little guide, measuring just over 5 by 6 inches, is a charmer—chiefly because of the appealing design and the choice of skillfully drawn illustrations in colored ink. The buildings being "read" are either European or American. They're examined first whole, as building types, and next by exterior and interior components including materials, doors and porches, columns and capitals, and chimneys and fireplaces. Many of the drawings keep reappearing to demonstrate different points, reinforcing our understanding. LeCorbusier's Villa Savoye in Poissy, France, for example, is initially shown to typify a modernist house and later displays its pipe columns, colonnaded facade, ribbon windows, and flat roof.
Text is succinct but sometimes puzzling, as in this description: "Even without going inside, it is possible to tell that this medieval French house has several stories." (Seeming to suggest that you need to go inside most houses to learn if they have several stories!) Never mind. Such an elegant book is still useful to have around.
What They're Reading...
Vice president of SmithGroup
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future
by Daniel H. Pink
New York: Riverhead, $15
275 pages, 24 illustrations
In the workplace, it's traditionally been the case that those with left-brain skills (straightforward logic and analysis) are slightly more privileged than those with right-brain skills (creativity and innovation). And that's left designers with the irksome task of convincing the world of the merit of their visions. Daniel H. Pink, doubtless a right-brain sort, musters the powers of reason to argue that ingenuity, originality, and even empathy are the keys to success in today's boardroom. "The book leads you from the agricultural and industrial to the technological. Now we're in the conceptual age," Angie Lee says. "Linear thinking is arcane. Creativity is the leader of the new society." Lee, who specializes in office interiors, has been on the front line of the corporate trend to acknowledge the office as a place of communication and imagination, a recruitment tool for prospective employees, and a retention incentive for star performers. "The personal footprint is decreasing in favor of collaborative space," she adds. "Huddle rooms, game rooms, war rooms, fitness centers—the soft side of corporate America is taking over." Looks like the rebellion has ended, and the inmates have won. —Deborah Wilk